Mother Davis adjusts her bifocals to obtain a sharper view, and observes,
Proponents of abstinence-only sex education have long claimed that their approach leads to reduced sexual activity among teenagers. Their idea is that if only adults can get teenagers to promise not to have sex, then the teenagers won’t have sex.
The problem is that the research that the abstinence-only crowd cites was pretty shoddy, failing to control for additional cultural and demographic factors, thus mixing up association with causality. So, there hasn’t been any reliable research to indicate that virginity pledges actually lead to prolonged virginity.
This month, an article published in the journal Pediatrics addresses this gap in sex-ed research, with a model that controls for pre-existing patterns in behavior and ideas. The results: Teenagers who took virginity pledges were no less likely to remain virgins than similar teenagers who did not take virginity pledges.
Furthermore, the study found that most teenagers who took virginity pledges lied about it. When asked, 82% of virginity pledgers said that they had never taken a virginity pledge.
Virginity pledgers were just as promiscuous as non-pledgers – meaning that they had just as many sexual partners. The only big difference between pledgers and non-pledgers was that non-pledgers were more likely to use birth control than pledgers.
So, what do you get when you push teenagers to promise not to have sex? You get just as much sexual promiscuity, but more teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Under George W. Bush’s presidency, the federal government has been spending 200 million dollars every year to promote abstinence-only education programs that include virginity pledges. In his first year, Barack Obama ought to work with Congress to end these programs.
The benefits won’t just be personal. Ending abstinence-only education programs can be part of economic recovery as well. I’m not talking about savings of 200 million dollars in the annual federal budget – that’s just a drop in the bucket. But, reinvest that 200 million dollars in comprehensive sex education programs that will encourage teenagers to use birth control when they do have sex, and our economy will benefit significantly from reduced teenage pregnancy and parenthood.
I also suspect that our country will prosper more when we treat knowledge as a gift to pass on to our children, rather than a danger that must be withheld from them.
Feeling her squint-wrinkles ease,